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CROWN OF SNAKES: EURIPIDES, BACCHAE 101-2

  • Nicholas Lane (a1)

Extract

      ἔτεκεν δ᾽, ἁνίκα Μοῖραι
      τέλεϲαν, ταυρόκερων θεὸν   100
      ϲτεφάνωϲέν τε δρακόντων
      ϲτεφάνοιϲ, ἔνθεν ἄγραν θηρότροφον μαι-
      νάδεϲ ἀμφιβάλλονται πλοκάμοιϲ.

102-3 θηρότροφον praeeunte Musgrave (-τρόφον) Allen : -τρόφοι ‹L›P

The subject of ἔτεκεν (99) and ϲτεφάνωϲεν (101) is Zeus (95). If the text is right, Zeus gave birth to Dionysus, and Zeus then crowned him with snakes. This note argues that the text is corrupt because (i) vase painting shows Dionysus born already crowned, and (ii) the notion that Zeus should crown anyone is quite exceptional. I conclude that in 101 Euripides probably wrote ϲτεφανωθέντα, not ϲτεφάνωϲέν τε.

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1 Text and apparatus are from J. Diggle's OCT, Euripidis Fabulae (Oxford, 1981–1994), 3.85.

2 Relevant iconography was gathered by H. Philippart, Iconographie des Bacchantes dʼEuripide (Paris, 1930): for the Schenkelgeburt, see nos 21-2, 24-7, 30. His title betrays an assumption that the images relate to the Bacchae, an assumption not made here.

3 The commentaries of J.E. Sandys, The Bacchae of Euripides (Cambridge, 19004), E.R. Dodds, Euripides Bacchae (Oxford, 19602), J. Roux, Euripide Les Bacchantes (Paris, 1970–1972), G.S. Kirk, The Bacchae of Euripides (Cambridge, 1979), R. Seaford, Euripides Bacchae (Warminster, 1996) and D. Susanetti, Euripide Baccanti (Rome, 2010) are silent about it. C. Segal, Dionysiac Poetics and Euripides' Bacchae (Princeton, NJ, 19972), 47 calls it a ‘strange garlanding’, without explanation.

4 P. Elmsley (Euripidis Bacchae [Oxford, 1821], 29) reports that in unpublished marginalia Scaliger wrote ϲτεφάνωϲαν in 101 (agreeing with Μοῖραι). On these marginalia, cf. Collard, C., ‘J.J. Scaliger's Euripidean marginalia ’, CQ 24 (1974), 242–9, at 242–4. Scaliger's reasoning is not known, but his alteration of the person crowning Dionysus may have arisen from a sense that it should not be Zeus.

5 Cf. Trendall, A.D., ‘A volute krater at Taranto’, JHS 54 (1934), 175–9. Trendall contrasts the relative frequency of images of Athena's birth and classifies vase representations of Dionysus' birth into those depicting Dionysus standing on Zeus's lap already emerged (‘like a small edition of his grown-up self’) and those depicting him emerging. The latter are relevant here, although the former also tend to represent Dionysus crowned. There are no extant representations of Zeus crowning Dionysus.

6 A large lekythos by the Alkimachos painter, dated c.460-450 b.c. (95.39, Museum of Fine Arts) [= Philippart (n. 2), no. 21; ARV 533, no. 58], of which a drawing was published by J.D. Beazley, Attic Red-Figured Vases in American Museums (Cambridge, 1918), 135, fig. 83, and a photo is reproduced at LIMC 3.2.376, s.v. Dionysos, 666.

7 1216.19, Akademisches Kunstmuseum; illustrated at Trendall (n. 5), 176, fig. 1 [= Philippart (n. 2), no. 22]. However, K.W. Arafat, Classical Zeus: A Study in Art and Literature (Oxford, 1990), 46–7 stresses that, while the fragment probably depicts the birth of Dionysus from Zeus, there is some uncertainty, because the child is not clearly shown emerging from the thigh and Zeus is not actively assisting. The black-figure neck amphora attributed to the Diosphos Painter (Cab. Méd. 219 [= Philippart (n. 2), no. 19; ABV 509, no. 120]) probably does not represent Zeus with Dionysus; cf. also D.D. Leitão, The Pregnant Male as Myth and Metaphor in Classical Greek Literature (Cambridge, 2012), 61 n. 14.

8 Published by F. Lenormant, GazArch 6 (1880), 72–4, at 72 [= Philippart (n. 2), no. 24].

9 The krater has been dated to the late fifth or the early fourth century b.c., i.e. around when Bacchae was written, and is reproduced by Trendall (n. 5), plate IX; cf. also LIMC 3.2.376, s.v. Dionysos, 667.

10 None of these images involves a crown of snakes, but the type of crown is irrelevant to my argument. For Dionysus garlanded with snakes, see e.g. the Ferrara krater discussed by M. Dillon, Girls and Women in Classical Greek Religion (London, 2002), 160–1, and n. 14 below. For snakes in Dionysiac cult, see E. Küster, Die Schlange in der griechischen Kunst und Religion (Giessen, 1913), 118–19; E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1951), 275–6; Schauenberg, K., ‘Pluton und Dionysos’, JDAI 68 (1953), 3872 , at 65 ff., and J.A. Kelhoffer, Miracle and Mission (Tübingen, 2000), 353–61. On the significance of snakes in the crown, see Kirk's note on lines 102–4 ([n. 3], 37) and Segal (n. 3), 47–8; for the Athenian, or old Erechtheid (as conceived by Euripides), custom, related at Ion 21–6, of protecting babies with golden snakes, see Seaford's note on lines 101–3 ([n. 3], 160). An important part of the symbolism of the snake in this connection relates to its ability to shed skin and the resultant association with immortality through renewal and rebirth: cf. e.g. M.L. West, The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (Oxford, 1997), 118 with nn. 68 and 70. That the snakes form crowns (as if with their tails in their mouths [?], like the οὐροβόροϲ δράκων of PMagLond 121.587 and PMagOsl 1.184 [= PGM 7.587 and 36.184]) may reinforce this. The ancient etymology of δράκων from δέρκομαι might be thought to add to the idea of its apotropaic function; cf. Porph. Abst. 3.8, Macrob. Sat. 1.20.3, Küster ([this note], 57 n. 2), and A. Michalopoulos, Ancient Etymologies in Ovidʼs Metamorphoses: A Commented Lexicon (Leeds, 2001), 75, s.v. draco; for a different view, cf. D. Ogden, Drakōn: Dragon Myth and Serpent Cult in the Greek and Roman Worlds (Oxford, 2013), 173 n. 157. Euripides himself plays on the etymology at Bacch. 1017–19, where δράκων is preceded by ἰδεῖν and followed by ἢ πυριφλέγων ὁρᾶϲθαι λέων, and ὁρᾶϲθαι seems to be emphatic. A fragment from Chaeremon's Dionysus (fr. 7 TrGF) uses the adjective ἑλικτόϲ of crowns, but, while Homer uses ἑλίϲϲομαι to describe a serpent coiling (Il. 22.95), and Sophocles uses the adjective of Achelous as a snake (Trach. 12), it is impossible to tell whether Chaeremon is alluding to snakes in the crowns mentioned. At Soph. fr. 535.5-6 TrGF Hecate is described ϲτεφανωϲαμένη δρυῒ καὶ πλεκταῖϲ | ὠμῶν ϲπείραιϲι δρακόντων (not unlike a Maenad).

11 M. Blech, Studien zum Kranz bei den Griechen (Religionsgeschichtliche Vorsuche und Vorarbeiten 38) (Berlin, 1982), 423–58 sets out the extensive iconographic evidence for crowning by reference to the kind of crowning and the person(s) involved. That evidence shows how unlikely it is that crowning would have been implied. There are examples of gods being crowned by other gods, e.g. Zeus by Eileithyia, Eros, Hermes and Nike, Apollo and Artemis by Nike, and Aphrodite by Eros. But there are no examples of superior gods crowning inferior ones. Sometimes gods, even important ones, are represented crowning heroes, but significantly no other god (or anyone else) is ever represented being crowned by Zeus.

12 Cf. C. Robert, Bild und Lied (Berlin, 1881), 14–15, and A.M. Snodgrass, Narration and Allusion in Archaic Greek Art. Eleventh J.L. Myres Memorial Lecture (London, 1982).

13 Gods are often represented crowned and Dionysus particularly liked crowns, so that representing him crowned confirms his divine identity. At Ion of Chios, fr. 26.13-14 (West, IEG 2), Dionysus is φιλοϲτεφάνοιϲιν ἀρέϲκων | ἀνδράϲιν, and in an epigram incorrectly attributed to Anacreon (Anth. Pal. 6.140.1 [= ʻAnacreonʼ 11.1 FGE]) παιδὶ φιλοϲτεφάνῳ Ϲεμέλαϲ. That the crowns in pictures are normally ivy helps to confirm the god's identity, because of his special association with that plant; see Segal (n. 3), 46–7, and more generally e.g. Plut. De Is. et Os. 365E, Quaest. conv. 647A, 648E-F, and Frazer on Pausanias 1.31.6 (2.417-18).

14 For Dionysus as bull-god, cf. L.R. Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States, 5 vols. (Oxford, 1896–1909), 5.250-2, 5.125-7; J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (London, 1911–19183), 7.16-17, 8.3-4; and R. Seaford, Reciprocity and Ritual: Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-State (Oxford, 1994), 288–9. For Zeus taking the form of a snake in order to impregnate his daughter Persephone, cf. e.g. Orph. fr. 89 F PEG (Bernabé, 2.1.96-7), Ov. Met. 6.114 (on which F. Bömer, P. Ovidius Naso: Metamorphosen, 8 vols. [Heidelberg, 1969–2006], 3.40 provides further references). The crown of snakes need not be literal, because snakes naturally coil: cf. e.g. Hom. Il. 11.36 Γοργὼ … ἐϲτεφάνωτο (of the snake-like Gorgon on Agamemnonʼs shield; see B. Hainsworth, The Iliad: A Commentary. Volume III: Books 9–12 [Cambridge, 1993] on lines 36–7), Soph. fr. 535 TrGF (quoted above, n. 10), Ap. Rhod. Argon. 3.1214-15 πέριξ δέ μιν ἐϲτεφάνωντο | ϲμερδαλέοι … δράκοντεϲ (of Hecate; see R.L. Hunter [ed.], Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica Book III [Cambridge, 1989], ad loc.). Whether there is any significance to the plural ϲτεφάνοιϲ (101) is doubtful. It may simply be a poetic plural, but arguably crowns would refer more naturally to the rings formed by snakes growing from Dionysusʼ head than a singular crown of snakes. The snakes may have been suggested by images of Dionysus with long curly hair: cf. T.H. Carpenter, Dionysian Imagery in Fifth-Century Athens (Oxford, 1997), 72, noting that after the mid fifth century bearded deities on vases mostly ʻhave short hair or hair tied in a bun, with the exception of Dionysos for whom long curls … are characteristicʼ. Mt Nysa, another of Dionysusʼ reputed birthplaces, is referred to as θηρότροφοϲ (557), ʻnurse of beastsʼ, which may allude to the birth of a theriomorphic Dionysus. For Dionysus with serpent hair, cf. e.g. Nonn. Dion. 11.59 δρακοντοκόμοιο (and cf. 25.221, quoted below, n. 21). Another possible function of the crown of snakes would be to set up an additional way in which Dionysus and Pentheus mirror each other: they are, as grandsons of Cadmus, first cousins, and both have links with snakes. The snake is part of Dionysusʼ nature (cf. above on the ophiomorpher Inzest in Orphic tradition), and Pentheus was born of Echion, ʻsnake manʼ: cf. esp. 538–44, with mentions at 213, 229, 265, 507, 995–6, 1015–16, 1030, 1119 and 1274. This may also be alluded to at 987–91, where the chorusʼ suggestion that Pentheus might have been born from the race of Libyan Gorgons recalls the snakes in Medusaʼs hair; cf. e.g. Pind. Pyth. 10.46-7 ποικίλον κάρα | δρακόντων φόβαιϲιν (Medusa), Ol. 13.63, Aesch. Cho. 1049–50 πεπλεκτανημέναι | πυκνοῖϲ δράκουϲιν (Erinyes likened to Gorgons) and [Aesch.] PV 799 δρακοντόμαλλοι (Gorgons). Other persons featuring or mentioned in the play also have snakes in their stories, including Achelous (519, 625), Cadmus (1330, 1358–60) and Teiresias (first episode).

15 In art, cf. E. Simon, Die Geburt der Aphrodite (Berlin, 1959) for Aphrodite's birth and Arafat (n. 7), 33–9 for Athena's. In literature, see e.g. Hom. Hymn 6.3-18 (where Aphrodite even has pierced lobes [8]), Hom. Hymn 28.4-13 (where Athena is born πολεμήϊα τεύχε᾽ ἔχουϲαν [5] and then she ἐϲϲυμένωϲ ὤρουϲεν ἀπ᾽ ἀθανάτοιο καρήνου | ϲείϲαϲ᾽ ὀξὺν ἄκοντα [8-9]; cf. S. Deacy, Athena: Gods and Heroes of the Ancient World [London and New York, 2008], 21–5), and (though not a god, a son of Zeus) the baby Hercules' strangling of the snakes sent by Hera to kill him at Pind. Nem. 1.33-72, esp. 35–6, and Eur. Her. 1266–8; cf. also Ogden (n. 10), 63–5.

16 e.g. Βρόμιον παῖδα θεὸν θεοῦ (84), Βρόμιον … , μέγαν θεόν (329), and Διόνυϲοϲ ἥϲϲων οὐδενὸϲ θεῶν ἔφυ (777).

17 e.g. Küster (n. 10); K. Kerényi, Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life (Princeton, 1976), 117; Bremmer, J.N., ‘Greek Maenadism reconsidered’, ZPE 55 (1984), 267–86 (‘the connection … with snakes is clear’ [269]), and Segal (n. 3), 126. The association is also clear from Theophrastusʼ Superstitious Man (Char. 16.4), καὶ ἐπὰν ἴδῃ ὄφιν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, ἐὰν παρείαν Ϲαβάζιον καλεῖν, ἐὰν δὲ ἱερὸν ἐνταῦθα ἡρῷον εὐθὺϲ ἱδρύϲαϲθαι: J. Diggle, Theophrastus Characters (Cambridge, 2004), 356 provides helpful bibliography on Sabazius and snakes on ἐὰν παρείαν Ϲαβάζιον καλεῖν. Carpenter (n. 14), 106 asserts that ʻDionysos on vases always has a wholly human form; however, lions, leopards and snakes are associated with him in some scenesʼ, but ʻthe god (young or old) is never shown with snakes in his hairʼ. Apart from the chorusʼ request that Dionysus appear in the passage quoted (Bacch. 1017–18), the snake is also one of the forms taken by Dionysus at Nonn. Dion. 6.191-5.

18 Emphasis on the form(s) of Dionysus is found elsewhere, including at 4–5 and 53–4 (Dionysus in human form), 453–9 (Pentheusʼ interest in the strangerʼs looks at their first encounter), 477–8 (Pentheusʼ interest in Dionysusʼ form), and 618–21 and 920–2 (Pentheus sees the stranger as a bull).

19 On the problem with logocentric accounts of the relationship between ancient art and literature, cf. M. Squire, Text and Image in Greco-Roman Antiquity (Cambridge, 2009), 122–39. My argument is not intended to suggest a reverse tyranny of image over text. Words may influence pictures and vice versa. Carpenter (n. 14), 111 considers that ʻit is entirely possible that Euripidesʼ inspiration for [snakes] came from earlier visual imagesʼ, based on his observation that the snakes in the Bacchae behave similarly to those on vases. That may be correct, but, since Dionysus is not portrayed with snakes in his hair on vases, at least this aspect of Euripidesʼ representation is novel.

20 Much of the humour in Lucian's Dial. D. 12 (Poseidon and Hermes) derives from Poseidon's inability to secure an audience with Zeus because of his confinement after giving birth to Dionysus. Similar humour may have informed Ctesilochus' lost painting of the delivery scene, described as petulans by Pliny the Elder (HN 35.140).

21 The only mention of Dionysus being crowned at birth is in Nonnus (Dion. 9.11-15), but there it is the Seasons who crown him. At Dion. 25.219-22 Nonnus seems to follow Euripides (τελεϲϲιγόνου puns amusingly on birth/knee and may recall Euripidesʼ τέλεϲαν [100]) by referring to the snakes as crowns given to Bacchus at his birth, although there is no suggestion that Zeus gave them to him: εἰ κλέοϲ ἀνδρὶ φέρουϲι δράκων, εἰ φωλάδεϲ ὕδραι, | Βάκχου ϲτέμματα ταῦτα λεχώϊα, ταῦτα Λυαίου | φρικτὰ δρακοντοκόμων ὀφιώδεα δεϲμὰ κομάων, | ἐξότε πατρὸϲ ἔλειπε τελεϲϲιγόνου πτύχα μηροῦ.

22 Aesch. fr. 317a TrGF ν]εότικτα δ᾽ ὑπὸ μηρο[ (]ϲι κορων[ ?]) is intriguing. If it describes the thigh birth, κορων- might suggest Dionysus' crumpled horns (κορώνιοϲ/κορωνόϲ?), some sort of crown (κορώνη/κορωνίϲ?) or possibly even his nurse Coronis; cf. Roscher, Lex. 2.1390, s.v. Koronis (3), and Pherec. frr. 90(b) and 90(d) in R.L Fowler, Early Greek Mythography, 2 vols. (Oxford, 2000–2013), 1.322-4.

23 Cf. n. 11. For representations of gods being crowned, see Blech (n. 11), 429–30, nos 7 (Apollo), 8 (Athena) and 9 (other gods).

24 On various symbolic functions of the thigh birth, see R. Garland, The Greek Way of Life (London, 1990), 28–9, and S. Porres Caballero, ‘Dionysus’ definitive rebirth (OF 328 I)’, in M. Herrero de Jáuregui and A.I. Jiménez San Cristóbal (edd.), Tracing Orpheus: Studies of Orphic Fragments (Berlin, 2011), 127–32, and Leitão (n. 7), 58–99.

25 For Dionysus as paradoxical god, cf. esp. R. Friedrich, ‘Everything to do with Dionysos? Ritualism, the Dionysiac, and the Tragic’, in M.S. Silk (ed.), Tragedy and the Tragic (Oxford, 1996), 257–83; but cf. G.W. Dobrov, Figures of Play: Greek Drama and Metafictional Poetics (New York, 2001), 71: ‘Vernant and many others working in the post-Nietzschean tradition have fashioned a general, metaphysical Dionysos who is made to embody principles such as ambiguity, contradiction, paradox, order-in-chaos, and so forth.’

26 In Euripides one finds, for example, Hippolytus bringing a crown as an offering to Artemis (Hipp. 73–4, 82–3), Heracles crowning himself as a worshipper and then pouring libations to the gods (Alc. 1015; cf. Bacch. 313), Iphigenia garlanded by Calchas as a sacrificial victim (IA 1567), and Orestes and Pylades crowned as victorious by Electra after Aegisthusʼ death (El. 880–9), etc.

27 Διὸϲ παῖ(ϲ) (1, 417, 550–1, 581), τῷ Βακχίῳ … τῷ Διόϲ (366), ὁ τοῦ Διόϲ (466), τὸ Διὸϲ βρέφοϲ (522), τὸν Διὸϲ γόνον (725, 1342), τὸν Διὸϲ | Διόνυϲον (859–60), ὁ Διόνυϲοϲ ὁ Διὸϲ γόνοϲ (1037), οὐχὶ θνητοῦ πατρὸϲ ἐκγεγὼϲ … | Διόνυϲοϲ ἀλλὰ Ζηνόϲ (1340–1). For a father to give birth is an inversion of natural order. It is conceivable that for Zeus to give birth makes him temporarily female (and therefore not Zeus), so that crowning Dionysus is not as demeaning as it would otherwise be. However, that would entail suppression not only of the great godʼs gender but also his identity, and because Greeks were accustomed to stories of Zeus giving birth in one way or another (as Poseidon confirms at Lucian, Dial. D. 12.1), the Schenkelgeburt would have seemed less strange to the Greeks than it does to us. Judging from depictions of Hephaestus in the images of Athena's birth described at Arafat (n. 7), 33–9 with plates 7(b), 8(a) and 8(b), the idea of a loss of identity is unlikely. Hephaestus' trepidation, unless interpreted as a response not to Zeus but to the newborn goddess (like the effect on Uranus and Ge of Athena's birth [ἔφριξέ νιν] at Pind. Ol. 7.38), rather suggests an all-powerful and potentially vengeful Zeus.

28 Cf. Orph. fr. 299 F PEG (Bernabé, 2.1.244-5) κλῦτε, θεοί· τόνδ᾽ ὔμμιν ἐγὼ βαϲιλῆα τίθημι | ἀθανάτοιϲ καὶ πρωτίϲταϲ τιμὰϲ νέμω αὐτῷ | καίπερ ἐόντι νέῳ καὶ νηπίῳ εἰλαπιναϲτῇ; cf. also E. Rohde, Psyche (Freiburg and Leipzig, 1894), 354–5 n. 40; W.K.C. Guthrie, Orpheus and Greek Religion (London, 19522), 82; Kerényi (n. 17), 262–72; and A. Bernabé, ‘Nacimientos y muertes de Dioniso en los mitos órficos’, in C. Sánchez Fernández and P. Cabrera Bonet (edd.), En los límites de Dioniso (Murcia, 1998), 29–39.

29 Cf. Orph. fr. 34 V PEG (Bernabé, 2.1.51-2).

30 Euripides refers to Orphism in several places, but the references do not show that he was an adherent. Orphism seems to have been used by him as a reference point for cult, probably because it was closer to his and his audience's ordinary experience of cult than the extreme form of Maenadism he chose to portray in the play. The judgement of Guthrie (n. 28), 237–8, that Euripides ‘threw out a hint now of this belief and now of that according as his mood, or his sense of the dramatic, might suggest’, still holds good, but a detailed and up-to-date study of Orphism in Euripides is a desideratum.

31 Segal (n. 3), 75 observes that ‘[r]eferences to Orpheus are rare but significant in Euripides’, referring to his article, The magic of Orpheus and the ambiguities of language’, Ramus 7 (1978), 106–42, 117–18 and 121–2. He also highlights (48–50) the parallels between the Orphic sparagmos of Dionysus by the Titans and that of Pentheus in the play.

32 For Dionysus horned, cf. Soph. fr. 959.2-3 TrGF ὁ βούκερωϲ | Ἴακχοϲ (with Pearsonʼs note ad loc.), Eur. Bacch. 920–2, Euphorion 14.1 Coll. Alex. ταυροκέρωτι, Nic. Alex. 31 κεραοῖο, Anth. Pal. 9.827.1 [= Pl. Epigr. 22(b).1 FGE] εὐκεράοιο, Lucian, Dionysus 2 κεραϲφόρον, Nonn. Dion. 45.259 βουκεράῳ … μετώπῳ, 7.321 βοοκραίρου, 9.15 κεράϲτην, 20.314 κεραϲφόρε, 45.248 κερόεντα, Orph. hymn 30.3 (Abel) δικέρωτα, 52.2 ταυρόκερωϲ, Anon. hymni in Bacchum et Apollinem 1.23 (Abel) χρυϲόκερων; cf. also Farnell (n. 14), 5.250-2; Frazer (n. 14), 7.12, 7.16; and Kerényi (n. 17), 244–5, 270. In his note on Bacch. 100, Dodds comments that Dionysus horned was a common feature of Hellenistic and Roman iconography but that the tradition (in art) does not go back to the fifth century. Snakes as well as bulls can be ʻhornedʼ: for the κεράϲτηϲ snake (Vipera cerastes), cf. Nic. Ther. 258–81, and O. Keller, Die Antike Tierwelt, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1909–1913), 2.297-8.

33 Cf. n. 28.

34 Cf. n. 29 above and Kerényi (n. 17), 110–15.

35 Cf. Kerényi (n. 17), 116–18, and n. 17 above.

36 As it is by e.g. Carpenter (n. 14), 110 and V. Leinieks, The City of Dionysos: A Study of Euripidesʼ Bakchai (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1996), 72.

37 Cf. LSJ s.v. ἀμφιβάλλω I.a. At Catull. 64.254-64 part of Iacchus' thiasus sese tortis serpentibus incingebant (258), and at Hor. Carm. 2.19.18-20 Bacchus is imagined binding the hair of Thracian women with snakes. (R.G.M. Nisbet and M. Hubbard, A Commentary on Horace Odes, Book II [Oxford, 1978], 325–6, misleadingly cite ϲτεφάνωϲέν τε δρακόντων | ϲτεφάνοιϲ in their note on 2.19.19 as evidence for Maenads wearing snakes.) At Nonnus, Dion. 14.341, a Maenad binds her own hair. Within the Bacchae, Dionysusʼ worshippers are described crowning themselves or no interest is shown in who performs the act: cf. 81, 106, 177, 205, 313, 323, 531–2, 702–3 and 833. There is only one exception to this at 341–2, where Cadmus threatens to crown Pentheus, but it does not actually happen.

38 Recent scholarly debate about Euripidean cultic aetiologies has concentrated on the extent to which Euripides reflected actual cult practice (R. Seaford, ‘Aitiologies of cult in Euripides: a response to Scott Scullion’, in J.R.C. Cousland and J.R. Hume (edd.), The Play of Texts and Fragments: Essays in Honour of Martin Cropp [Leiden, 2009], 221–34), as opposed to inventing them for dramatic purposes (S. Scullion, ‘Tradition and invention in Euripidean aitiology’, ICS 24–25 [1999–2000], 217–33). Seaford, in his note on lines 64–169 ([n. 3], 155–7), suggests that the chorus may have been equipped with snakes, although he adds a question mark, reflecting some doubt, and then says that the chorus wore ivy crowns. However, as S.C. Humphreys, The Strangeness of Gods: Historical Perspectives on the Interpretation of Athenian Religion (Oxford, 2004), 72 notes, ‘Euripides’ portrayal of maenads in the Bacchae, and other statements in our sources, probably owe more to fantasy than to experience’, and Carpenter (n. 14), 110–11 dismisses the specific idea that snake-handling formed any part of fifth-century Dionysiac ritual. Since worshippers of Dionysus were unlikely to put snakes in their hair in reality, Euripides is probably not referring to actual cult practice so much as prefacing a practice as imagined later in the play (cf. 697–8, 767–8). As Dobrov (n. 25), 73 observes: ‘Adherents of the ritualist and “metaphysical” (essentialist) approaches have strategically overlooked or undervalued the fact that these [sc. Pentheus' madness, dressing as a woman and death at the hands of Agaue, in other words the allegedly ritualistic elements] are precisely the elements invented by the playwright.’ Since, then, the description is more likely to be dramatic, it is also more likely to demonstrate a direct correspondence between myth and imagined cult practice.

39 It may be worth noting that in Philodamus' Paean to Dionysus (pp. 165–71 of Coll. Alex.) the god is asked to come as a bull and with ivy in his hair, κιϲϲοχαῖτα (2–3), and later in the hymn the Muses are described crowning themselves with ivy (58–9). If I am wrong about the correspondence between Dionysus born-crowned and the Maenads crowning themselves, the key function of the aetiology must anyway have been to explain why the Maenads wore snakes in their hair and in a sense who puts them there is irrelevant. Therefore, whether we accept a text with or without Zeus crowning Dionysus will not affect the aetiology.

40 There are fourty-three instances in Euripides' plays (and one instance in Euripides' epinician ode for Alcibiades [fr. 755.5 PMG]) of ϲτεφανόω, ϲτέφω (and its compounds ἀνα-, ἐκ-, ἐξανα- and κατα-), ϲτεμματόω, ἐρέφω and πυκάζω (where the last two verbs are used to mean ‘crown’ [Bacch. 323, Alc. 832 and Tro. 353]). The only examples of a god (and these are of a lesser god) crowning someone are those three involving the goddess Nike (IT 1497–9, Phoen. 1764–6 and Or. 1691–3), but their authorship is doubtful and the use may be metaphorical rather than literal. Even if authorship were not doubtful, these examples, in having Nike perform the act of crowning, would be consistent with iconography (see above, n. 11).

41 Cf. e.g. Eur. IT 206–7 λόχιαι … | Μοῖραι … θεαί. For the connection between Μοῖραι and Εἰλείθυια, see R.B. Onians, The Origins of European Thought (Cambridge, 19542), 352–3 n. 7. W. Burkert, Greek Religion (trans. J. Raffan) (Oxford, 1985), 174 suggests that Μοῖραι are ‘a kind of amalgamation of Eileithyiai and Erinyes’.

42 For the aorist passive participle after the aorist indicative (ἔτεκεν [99]), cf. e.g. Alc. 621–2 οὐδ᾽ εἴαϲε [sc. με] ϲοῦ | ϲτερέντα γήρᾳ πενθίμῳ καταφθίνειν, Andr. 9–10 [sc. ἐϲεῖδον] παῖδά … | ῥιφθέντα πύργων Ἀϲτυάνακτ᾽ ἀπ᾽ ὀρθίων, Hrcld. 479 ἐξῆλθον, οὐ ταχθεῖϲα πρεϲβεύειν γένουϲ, Rhes. 710–13 ἔβα … | … | … | πυκαϲθείϲ, and Tro. 1253 μέγα δ᾽ ὀλβιϲθεὶϲ … ἐγένου. It is impossible to say whether unaugmented ϲτεφάνωϲεν gives further grounds for suspicion because of the absence of other examples of the verb in the aorist tense in Euripides. Where Euripides uses the aorist of the cognate ϲτέφω, it is always augmented. It also usually appears augmented in earlier writers. Thus, it is invariably augmented in the Homeric corpus, Pindar and Aristophanes. The only examples without the augment appear to be Hes. fr. 185.5 (M.-W.) (by conjecture) and Bacchyl. 14B.9 (Maehler), although elsewhere these authors also employ the augment.

43 Cf. LSJ s.v. I.

44 I am obliged to Roger Dawe, James Diggle, Neil Hopkinson and David Kovacs, as well as to CQ's anonymous referee, for helpful criticisms of successive drafts. All are hereby cordially indemnified regarding the remnants.

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CROWN OF SNAKES: EURIPIDES, BACCHAE 101-2

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